6 Imperatives for Reacquiring the Church
Its been nearly a year since many of our churches began to feel the effects of Covid-19. Although there is a swing trending that the church is rebounding and beginning to re-gather ministries. There is still a large number that are at a loss of what to do next. Yes there is uncertainty surrounding the next phase of ministry. My purpose today in this post is to offer considerations for any church leader desiring to replant or reacquire the church. I will offer 6 areas of focus and these are in no specific order nor do they intend to be a step by step process. You will need all 6 throughout the process, perhaps I could say it needs to be continuous and simultaneous.
Pray without Ceasing: Above all else, replanting or reacquiring the church is a spiritual process, and its a battle. Satan desires to see the church fail, and specifically your church not to be vibrant any longer. John Piper describes prayer this way "Prayer is wartime communication." Meaning that if you are pinned down by the enemy in wartime, and you have a radio, you would call down your fellow soldiers or allies to come and take out the artillery that is bearing down on you. That is what it is like for most pastors and prayer. We have to spend time with God pleading with God to take down the strongholds in our churches and communities, so that the church can fulfill her mission.
Love Your Church Members: One thing that I have seen in churches through the pandemic is that the care game has improved. There has been a greater attention to caring for people who are more vulnerable and have missed service because of the scare of covid. But as the church begins to rebound, it would be easy to return to business as usual. Church leaders need to remember that pastor's are called to pastor the whole church, not just the ones you like more than others or have more in common with. Caring well for your congregation needs to be a priority, remind them that they are important, that you love them and that they matter to God.
Re-engage the community: Its easy to forget that our churches, don't always look like the community around the church building. That can be for many reasons, perhaps the building is too ornate and doesn't fit in the landscape of the community. Or members may be driving in to your church from greater distances than a couple mile radius. As you begin to assess to community you will discover spiritual and physical needs of your neighbors. Its important to understand the community around you, re-invest time in the community. Do shopping in the area around your church, understand the schools in proximity, buy your gas at the local gas station, take time to learn names, and build relationships with community leaders. Your community will pay attention, and you will regain their trust.
Simplify your strategy: If there was a good thing that came from Covid, it could be this; churches began to simplify their strategy to reach people. Moving forward from Covid, we should keep some things and be cautious about what we add back to the structure. We have learned that our families need margin in their lives. We also learned that perhaps we don't need to continue on with every thing we once did pre-covid. Many older dying churches have complex and detailed organizational structure that make decision process slow and unresponsive. Your church structure needs to facilitate kingdom growth not prohibit it.
Focus on developing leaders: One trait you will find in declining churches is the failure to pass leadership on to the next generation. In fact many dying churches have no one to pass the baton of leadership to. Moving forward, how intentional will your church be in letting younger leaders lead? The question isn't whether your church loves young people or not. The question is: Can your church pass leadership on to them? Can it hand over the keys to the church and then enjoy the ride? Leaders must lead. If you don't let young leaders lead they will leave your church? Perhaps a helpful way to help develop leaders is to have one on one intentional mentoring, one on one bible study for the purpose of leadership development. Maybe its calling up young leaders to assist you with a project at church. With the goal to pass on that leadership to others.
Make Disciples Who Make Disciples: Nearly every church in our local association has some part of the great commission call to make disciples as part of their church's mission statement yet most of our churches struggle in doing it. Discipleship isn't something you learn in a classroom or in a conference. Discipleship happens when you become who you hang out with! If you want your church to become a congregation that makes disciples that makes disciples you have to get your people in discipling relationships with one another.
Remember none of these imperatives are done sequentially or in isolation of the others. They are all done simultaneously. They may be done at different speeds depending on your context. These 6 imperatives need to be represented in your teaching, preaching and lifestyle.